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Title: Impacts of SOV grammar on the acquisition of Mandarin : a survey of Yunnan Lahu students’ use of mandarin conjunctions
Authors: Hsu, YY 
Liu, Y 
Issue Date: Dec-2020
Source: Journal of Chinese language teaching (華語文教學研究), Dec. 2020, v. 17, no. 4, p. 41-70
Abstract: This study investigated the uses of Mandarin conjunctions by local high school students in Lancang County, Yunnan, China. Fifty-six students, whose first language is Lahu, participated in this study. Lahu, a Tibeto-Burman language, has a SOV (subject-object-verb) word order that differs from Mandarin’s SVO order. We studied how the syntactic differences between conjunctions in Lahu and Mandarin reflect Lahu grammar’s influence on students’ Mandarin. We used a survey of acceptability judgments on typical Mandarin sentences and Lahu-flavored Mandarin sentences in five types of conjunction structures proposed by the research team. Across the types of conjunctions, students’ acceptability judgments did not show clear differences between Mandarin and the Lahu-flavored Mandarin sentences, although some students seemed to be aware of the unique status of clause-final conjunctions, which never occur in standard Mandarin and thereby resulted in lower acceptance rates. Critical differences were found in accuracy; students tended to prefer sentences with the object preceding the verb, which is a fundamental OV order for Lahu but not for Mandarin. Therefore, it appears that the OV order exhibited in Lahu has been pervasively carried over to students’ Mandarin. Moreover, students were not aware of the structural differences of conjunctions used in the two languages and could not accurately identify correct Mandarin sentences. Based on our results and our examination of the 18 textbooks currently adopted by local high schools, we provided concrete suggestions about how the fundamental word order differences can be emphasized in local Mandarin language curricula to help improve students’ awareness of the linguistic differences between Lahu and Mandarin to efficiently advance their Mandarin proficiency. More research will still be needed to better address issues related to the languages and the language learning in this unique community.
Keywords: Conjunction
Lahu language
OV order
Publisher: World Chinese Language Association 世界華語文教育學會
Journal: Journal of Chinese language teaching (華語文教學研究) 
Rights: Posted with permission of World Chinese Language Association 世界華語文教育學會
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher.
The following publication Hsu, Yu-Yin, and Yang Liu. 2020. SOV 母語對普通話的習得影響:從拉祜語關聯詞結構看拉祜族學生學習普通話的現況 [Impacts of SOV Grammar on the Acquisition of Mandarin: A Survey of Yunnan Lahu Students’ Use of Mandarin Conjunctions]. 華語文教學研究 [Journal of Chinese Language Teaching] 17.4: 41-70 is available at
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